Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
These photos were taken around 2pm, what should be near the warmest point of the day (and the air temperature is a bit above freezing). Please note that this is not snow - it hasn't snowed since I came back, and these frosty areas are in openings of forest that theoretically would see sunlight. Beyond grass fields, the frost also hits gravel roads and asphalt surfaces in a thick manner, appearing innocent enough but making walking paths extremely slick.
Friday, November 6, 2009
As the prospect of packing my belongings and leaving my two month home of Kathmandu approaches I am a little stuck on a concept brought up by last week’s conference on tradition and preservation in the Trans-Himalayan area. Many of the lecturers at this conference noted some fears of globalization and the way that contemporary life is forcing people to hold multiple identities – constantly pulled between the traditional and the modern. While I share neither a personal attachment to any “traditional” lifestyle nor the presented fears of loss of culture, I am lately very much aware the multiple identities which I hold.
Hidden back in my suitcase are several items which I have not looked at or thought about in the last 60 days – a down winter vest, some makeup, a student id from NTNU. There is a cell phone with a Norwegian phone number that I never managed to remember even though it belongs to me. Finally, there is a keychain holding the most solid and complicated key I’ve ever owned – one that ironically belongs to the most secure and safe place I have ever lived. The comparison of this key to my Norwegian small town student apartment to the flimsy piece of aluminum used for my hotel room is comical. These keys further remind me of sets I have held through other identities – especially those that used to be part of an internal “keys, wallet, phone” mantra that I would not leave my New York or Boston apartments without repeating in check. Such items become symbols of the habits which form our lives and how we identify with the world.
It is interesting to me the items one believes they cannot leave home without depending on a specific position in life/the globe, or to any one particular identity. I have not owned, or even used, a phone since September and I haven’t particularly missed it. In Norway I used my phone for social commitments and to check the time, in New York the phone was a storage device for any pertinent contact information – personal or business, and often held note reminders for those days when I would be without internet for several hours at a time. These objects and our relationships with them change with our circumstances and environment. In my case, “keys, wallet, phone” became “wallet” or “wallet, camera” by the time I got to Nepal, since life in a hotel allows the keys to be checked at the door. The breaks from some amount of materiality and the barriers to technology here have overall been refreshing. I am reminded of Thoreau writing in Walden how he feels bad to see the poor carrying all their belongings on their back, not because they are poor and have so little, but because they have to labor to carry so much which ties them down.
So here I have fallen into an identity between volunteer worker and transient long term tourist. My class has come here from diverse cultural backgrounds stretching from Norway and France to China and Japan, but in Nepal have become a fairly cohesive international societal unit. I will return to Norway with the full identity of a student, saying goodbye to some good friends and many familiar faces - realizing that some relationships will carry on in different capacities and others will disappear or change completely, along with the habits of the day to day. Being one to typically fight nostalgia and embrace change, I look forward to the new opportunities that later identities may afford me. For me, the possession of multiple identities is a key element, both in the personal development of the individual and in our collective ability to relate to each other, adapting into variously scaled and termed social groups. It may be that multiple identities is the clearest form of underlying social infrastructure in the global environment.